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     First analysis of trends grouping
           #3338   Created 04/26/2013   Updated 04/27/2013

I started the Trends project prior to 1999, after conversations with Bob Wells and Dana Alford, as it had become increasingly obvious that the sharp minds running traditional media businesses were being blindsided by changes in consumer behavior. I knew there was more to it than just the obvious shifts in revenue to digital, mostly because of disturbing hints that the reality for consumers was changing in substantial ways, as well.

There was too much information to process, so I started looking for bell-weather clues, significant items that demonstrate the changing relationships between consumers and the media in which they have become enmeshed. The fact that there are complex relations and that you can use the word "enmeshed" without protest suggests that you can describe those relations in the sense of "positions" that consumers have in relation to the media.

I've tried not to make the "positions" thing too complex, because it's a simple idea at heart. It's difficult to ask if the consumer "trusts" the media, or does the consumer understand her "role" in the media process? Is the consumer's "position" simply that of a consumer, of is the consumer also the object of the media, the subject of the media, the creator of the media, the aggregator of others' media, the curator of personal media collections, the arbitrar of media success, the very power source of media itself?

Is the consumer the consumer of external content, or both the consumer and the subject of social media content? Is the consumer both the consumer and the consumed, as is the case in online gaming and role-playing? Or is the consumer both the consumer and the producer, in the case or Reddit and Facebook?

Yes to all. But it has not always been that way, and it has obviously changed over time in ways that we can see through the business and content of media past. I hoped that we would be able to see the outlines of those large trends by examining the evidence of the small trends that pass before us in the news.

Thus began the Trends clipping collection, my random compiling of oddities and trends in human behavior, media structure, and content creation. As they stories went by, I attempted to categorize them in ways that reflected on consumer position, and taxonomy of trends slowly emerged, that I used as the basis of further contemplations.

I was aware then, as now, that this particular collection of clippings is hardly random, and picked by me. But they do represent a useful basis from which to begin an analysis, by examining each of them in turn for their constitutive elements, and teasing out the relationships they reveal about the ways that media content is created and distributed, how the forces of commerce affect the flow of information, how changes in consumer behavior reveal the changes in the structures surrounding media, and how all this comes to be a revealing glimpse into how media works in the 21st Century.

A map of trends and directions. Trends represent changes in the behavior of people, media, and marketing.

Most notable is that changes experienced by consumers are mostly about the experience of information, the nature of relationships, and individualized mass behavior. The shared media experience has given way to simultaneous solo media experiences; the anonymity of the crowd has given way to the glare of online profiling; solo activities are emerging as swarm behavior; and the ability to comprehend the media environment has been complicated by the overloading flood of material on the Web.

The changes experienced by media relate to changes in the methods of production and distribution of news and entertainment, tension between property rights and consumer behavior, and the evolution of markets from physical distribution outlets to information distribution systems.

Among the trends most evident are the relationship between the value of news and information, the pedigree of Web data, and the evolution of Copyright law. Around these three concepts swirl a number of issues relating to the role of creators and audience, the relationship between knowledge and belief, the evolution of information sources from solo to crowd, and the shift from reporting to aggregation.

Among the mega-trends observed are the shift from centralized systems to distributed systems, the dissolution of traditional infrastructure, and the emergence of mobile and the changing role of desktop.



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